April 1945 came in like a lion aboard the USS Montrose APA-212, which like many other
ships were in and around Okinawa for amphibious landings. All were loaded with room
jerked to attention. He took rapid notes, marked the time on the dispatch blank; it was
0140 in the morning and clicked the buttons marked "Conn" and "Captain" on the
intercommunications speaker. "Conn, this is C.I.C. Message from officer in tactical
command follows: 'Red Alert, Red Alert All ships General Quarters. Make smoke. Make
smoke...' " The clang of the general alarm sent the crews racing to their guns in the dark.
Within minutes smoke was pouring from the special generators on the ship and from the
pots in the boats. A comforting screen of haze enveloped the Montrose and her sister
ships. Planes droned distantly overhead but then they were gone. The crew secured and
wearily returned to its sleep.
At 0355 once more the radio crackled to life and once more the man on watch took the
message "Red Alert, Red Alert" and once more the crew of the Montrose and its sister
ships sprang to life. They were trying times for ships like the "Rose" and her sisters, for
nights like this were the norm rather than the exception.
The great movement of naval and military forces which captured Okinawa and its adjacent
islands is too complex a matter to be given a just review here; yet the actions in which the
Montrose participated do indicate something of the master strategy involved.
The first was to occupy Kerama Retto, that cluster of islets which spread some twenty five
miles southwest of the main island of Okinawa and there establish a refuge and
springboard for the ships, which would in phase two assault the main island. It was a
good plan but the irony of it was in the details; for the first assault ships, not yet ready to
invade Okinawa with its airfields, would be in continuous reach of its aircraft - the most
dangerous land based aircraft.
After refueling on the night of 1 April the Montrose went to battle stations once more
before retiring for the night and reaching the haven of the open sea and the pleasant
oblivion of being able to sleep for awhile; at a time when the only hazards to concern those
on watch were drifting mines, storms and submarines.
Roused by the capture of Retto, stung by the assumed landings on Okinawa, and
frightened by the bombings of their home islands the Japanese launched a terrific
counterattacking barrage of suicide planes. Their onslaught smashed against the invasion
forces the length of the Nansci, Shoto from the Hagushi beaches of Okinawa to the tip of
Yakabi Shima in the Keramas to the destroyer patrol squadrons all around the entire mass
Five times during the night and day the crew of the Montrose were called to battle
stations. All day the crew lingered by the guns taking turns napping while anti-aircraft
gunners of the passenger artillerymen supplemented the men on watch. The passengers
for the Montrose were not scheduled to land until Phase Two, second wave, being backup
artillerymen. On 2 April at dusk the squadron reformed and began its retirement for the
night while the crew off watch sat down to supper. Then suddenly out of the clouds the
Japanese planes dived on the ship.
The Montrose was the fifth ship in the right hand of three columns and it was from her
starboard that the attack came. By the time that the alarm sounded the ship had already
gone to battle stations and the gunners on watch had already opened up with every gun
which could be brought to bear on the targets. The evening sky was full of tracers (reds
ones from the twenties and white ones from the heavier forties) which streaked high into
the cloud banks and funneled into vast cones upon the suiciders.
There were four twin engine dive bombers - Betty-s - in the first wave. With an explosion
that rocked the convoy, the first crashed into the bridge of the Hernrico (APA-45) at the
lead of the middle column. The bombs smashed through the deck below and detonated
deep inside the ship causing over two hundred casualties. Lying dead upon the wrecked
bridge were the captain and the troop regimental commander.
The second plane ran squarely into the concentration of fire from the whole starboard
column; tracers from the Montrose's forward forties were observed tearing into the craft
which shortly crash dived on the port bow of the Telfare (APA-210). A carrier fighter slid
out of a cloud bank and engaged the third plane thus pulling if far out of the fight.
The last plane which moved almost parallel to the right hand column of ships was under
heavy fire from the Montrose and all the other ships in her column. Tracers from the
Montrose were seen by observers on the bridge to smash into the planes cockpit and a
moment later smoke streamed from the Betty while gunfire followed her to the water's
white caps, the plane wobbled and fell crashing into the water on the starboard side of the
formation. She was chalked up as an "assist" for the Montrose.
More Japanese planes were appearing. At this point the Montrose lost her ability to
summarize the situation as planes began appearing from everywhere. She became
engage with two twin engine bombers who attacked her from her starboard side, both
from the cover of a dark cloud bank. They came in one after the other about twenty
The Montrose's lookouts were the first to spot the planes and concentrated fire was
opened up from every starboard battery at 4500 yards. The planes, another Betty, closed
to approximately 1500 yards squarely into the fire from the Montrose and she turned and
banked. At this maneuver tracers from the starboard batteries ate into the planes, swept
its fuselage and streamed into its engine block. As the turn was completed the tail of the
attacker fell away. The plane flipped heavily once and then plummeted topside down into
The second Betty began to roar on the Montrose's starboard side so the gunners switched
their sights to the new target. Fire was opened with the 40mm and the after five incher at
4500 yards. At 4000 yards a shell from the big fantail rifle struck the diving plane squarely
midship and it burst into flames but continued falling in a long and steep glide directly
toward the Montrose. All of their guns now followed the strickened Betty riddling the
fuselage and wings until she flew apart and smashed with a geyser of spray into the water
two hundred yards off the stern off the Montrose.
All guns swung toward the cloud banks expecting a third run but no planes followed. there
was a long moment of silence then a great cheer went up all over the sip. Troops roared
and shouted. Gun crews hugged the hot barrels of their guns and patted the mounts. Ah,
the rose of Okinawa -the USS Montrose was of age-she was a fighting ship.
While the Montrose had been shooting down the Bettys, other ships had been engaged
also. five suiciders had completed their runs and flames over the now dark sea were
rising from a destroyer - the Dickerson which was subsequently scuttled and from four of
the transports: Henrico (APA-45), Telfair (APA-210)), Goodhue (APA-107) and Chilton
(APA-38). The squadron continued its retirement after it had reformed, shepherding the
four wounded transports and sinking destroyer while praying for their dead. Somewhere,
perhaps, obeisances were made for the lost Japanese pilots but not by the Montrose and
Not having had use for its boats since landings from the Montrose were scheduled later,
they had been lent to the Eastland (APA-163) whose troops were to land on Kerama
Retto. The next day the Montrose had no special duty but she serviced with water, fuel
and provisions the larger landing craft, LCI's and LSM's which came to her side. As the
twilight deepened anxious eyes from the Montrose were relieved to see her landing craft
streaking homeward as lookouts fearfully counted their number as they hove into sight. All
present and accounted for! They came alongside and were hoisted aboard and the
squadron retired to the open sea for the night. How dangerous those waters were off
Kerama Retto actually were is evidenced by the scores of mines swept up in the area the
next day and by the four hundred suicide speedboats each loaded by collision torpedoes,
later located in hidden coves about the islets.
The Japanese garrisons on the islets offered little opposition on most of the beach heads.
True, there were brief spasms of bitter fighting but in general the lack of resistance
perplexed all hands. It was revealed much later, that the assaults had taken the
defenders by surprise and though the islet defenders were overrun, their planes were not
and had to be eliminated one by one. On the second ay after the landings eight raids
were made upon the warships marking the beginnings of suicide attacks which reached
tremendous proportions at Okinawa later. While the islets had been easily overrun
Okinawa itself proved to give the U.S. fighting men some of their greatest losses of life in
the war in the Pacific. It was however, a land war and the USS Montrose "The Rose of
Okinawa" was finally able to rest for at least a little while. She and her sisters were like
the land troops, dreading known horrors of the invasion of Japan proper. Okinawa had
only been a blip on the screen.
Dental Officer Dr.
On 12 January 1945 the Montrose left Seattle on its first crossing of the Pacific Ocean.
The beauty of the Strait of Juan de Fuca was enjoyed by the crew as well as the troops as
we headed out to join the great war. The smooth waters of the strait rapidly changed to
pounding waves. the small craft storm warnings soon changed to a full storm warning and
our course was to keep us in the storm for four full days. The ship's bow rose and sank
with a wall of water coming over the fo'c'sle and the spray reaching whole ship would
vibrate. Most of the crew and all of the troops were sea sick. Every man had his own
story to tell of how he survived. One sailor who would get sick easily had to take his turn
of watch in the crows nest. Up to this time others would trade places with him to give him
a break. This time he had to take his turn so lines were secured around him to make sure
he would get there. When it was time to relieve him he said not to bother. In trying to
convince him they told him that they would make sure he would be returned safely to the
deck but he answered that he never felt so good since he went to sea. He never was sea
sick after that.
To make matters worse, one of the soldiers became sick and it was determined he
needed an appendectomy operation. Elaborate plans were made to head the ship into the
wind and reduce speed during the surgery. Doctor H.H. Greene was to do the surgery.
He leaned against the table and had men lean against him on either side and one behind
him to be sure he would be as stable as possible. After a quick rehearsal Dr. Greene was
ready to go. The operation lasted a total of twenty minutes and was a success. All hands
gave a big cheer when the word was passed that the operation was a success. At least it
took the men's minds off their sea sickness.
Commander Hallock G. Davis U.S.N. was assigned as the first skipper of the U.S.S.
Montrose. He was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and his last previous
sea command before being named to the Montrose was Skipper of a destroyer. He held
the rank of Commander for about seventeen years and worked at the naval District
Headquarters in San Francisco. He lived in Palo Alto, California and shared a back yard
fence with former President Herbert Hoover. In order to be promoted he had to have
command of a ship at sea for at least a year to qualify for the rank of Captain.
On 29 October 1945 the Montrose sailed from Saipan non stop to San Francisco arriving
14 November 1945. Upon docking a friend of the Skipper, a full captain came aboard to
congratulate Commander Davis on his promotion to full Captain. This was news to the
new Captain Davis. He was told he was promoted a month ago - it was in a message to
all ships. A quick check of our radio traffic did not show such a message. A check with
another ship proved the message was sent a month before. It was determined we
missed the message because we switched from radio Honolulu to radio San Francisco
after Frisco sent the message and before Honolulu sent the message. Captain H.G.
Davis was happy with the promotion and did not complain.
But let it not be said that we didn't wake up old Davy Jones and make him take notice out
here in the middle of the Pacific.
It was not until the day of victory that our gunnery officer finally got his guns manned as
fast as he wanted. One might have thought all hell had broken loose - everything was
blazing away from the five incher to the carbines.....every noise making instrument from
the General Alarm to the Officers dinner gong was in play to say nothing of the vocal
cords that strained themselves hoarse. the ship itself seemed to add swing to its pitch
The USS Montrose had gone to General Quarters many times in her ten months of sea
duty but never in the hilarious mood she went this day of victory. No one worried about
life belts or helmets; no one heard the word to commence fire and the cease firing gong
only added to the din. The ship was covered in a mass of smoke as tracer fire streamed
from her guns. Victory at last! Final victory! We didn't stop to question it.....Lord.....we
felt it to the very depths of our souls. Victory! The awakening from a dream.....a dream
that had been a nightmare to some had passed.
Silence fell about the decks as the Captain spoke. His was not the calm stern voice we
had heard before.....there seemed to be a lump in his throat while he thanked the men for
the job they had done and proclaimed a two day holiday routine for the celebration-"There
will be no reveille", he said and we whooped and he added that all aboard were to receive
the finest feed our provisions could afford.
The signal gang may have moaned a bit when they had to air bunting before but not this
day! There was no order necessary. In a few minutes the ship was in full dress. Flags
flew from every yardarm, every masthead, every boom.
Swabs, shirts, pants, pajamas, underwear.....oh, the Irish Pennant had its day!
At 1730 the enlisted men had their day. The regular Navy boys took over the ship with the
Chiefs at the Conn. The ship officers were made telephone talkers, messengers and
lookouts. Army officers whom were aboard were ordered to sweep down the decks. The
Exec was taken from his chow to man the helm.....and did it. And two officers were put in
the brig for failure to carry out their orders!
That night the pyrotechnic locker was raided and fireworks brightened skies for miles
around for an hour while our searchlights were streaming skyward in a "V" against the
This then was the victory celebration we shared on the USS Montrose as she plowed
onward across the wide blue Pacific.
And when we turned in I was not the only one who also looked skyward.
VJ party continues
V J party